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Product Review - Toshiba SD-3006 DVD Player - April, 1997

By Stacey Spears

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Toshiba SD-3006
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Toshiba SD-3006 DVD Player; 1 Composite, 1 S-Video, and 1 Component (Color Difference) video output; 1 Coax Digital, 2 sets (pairs) analog audio output; Weight 7 pounds; $699; Toshiba America Consumer Products, Inc., 82 Totowa Road, Wayne, New Jersey 07470; Phone 201-628-8000.

Introduction

This is a preliminary review of the Toshiba SD-3006; the final review will be complete around the beginning of May (we will indicate that this page has been updated). The reason the final review will not be done until then is because I cannot take any measurements until the release of Video Essentials DVD, which is expected on April 23. I will have also spent some time using the component outputs.

Toshiba was the first DVD player manufacturer to offer component video outputs on their player (they are on the 3006 but not the 2006 which is $599). I applaud them for providing this on their DVD player and the corresponding component video inputs on their recent 16:9 TVs. I hope now that they will begin to offer it on their DSS receivers as well. The big deal with the component outputs on DVD is that it's not bandwidth limited like our NTSC system. Rather, it has the capability to provide us with greater color fidelity, (near) perfect color decoded picture, and more resolution than the S-Video output.

S-Video and Composite have a bandwidth and amplitude restriction on the
Chroma channels. The 'Y' [Luminance] on S-Video for DVD is approximately 6 MHz [Same as 'Y' on component], and 5.3 to 5.6 MHz for LD. Before encoding to MPEG-2, the Y-R and Y-B on DVD have a bandwidth of 3 MHz each. The exact bandwidth after encoding is a gray area at this point in time; some people are saying it is still 3 MHz, others are saying it has been reduced to 1.5 MHz each. The 'C' [Chroma] of the S-Video is where you take the hit. Before we can get 'C', we must do some more work. The first thing that must happen is to reduce the bandwidth of the color difference channels. Y-B is limited to 0.5 MHz, Y-R is limited to 1.3 MHz. After this happens, their amplitude must also be reduced, thus giving us two new channels, I and Q. I = 0.877(Y-R) and Q = 0.493(Y-B). Finally, they must be modulated onto two carriers at 3.579545 MHz [wt] then phase shifted 90 degrees so that we have two signals on the same frequency. The formula is as follows: [Q Sin(wt + 33) + I Cos(wt + 33)], and if you add this to 'Y' you have a composite signal.

I have properly adjusted the front panel controls on my TV (Pioneer Elite Pro-77) using Video Essentials (laserdisc). This should get me extremely close, if not dead on, to properly evaluate the capabilities of DVD. I have 11 DVDs on hand, 2 Lumivision, 1 MGM, 1 New Line, and 6 Warner Brothers titles to help with the evaluation. I have to say now that I am blown away at what I have seen so far!

Likes & Dislikes

Just as with everything else in life, there are things about DVD that I like and things that I don't like. This is the first generation of players, and I expect some vast improvements in features to come in future generations. The following is a list of things I would like to see changed about the Toshiba 3006:

Fluorescent Display - I would like the ability to turn the display off. When watching a movie, I usually have the lights off, and the display on the Toshiba is distracting.

Selector Switches on Back - What's with the Switches? The 3006 (and 2006) does not allow the use of the Analog audio outputs and AC-3 at the same time. You must flip a switch on the back of the unit to select one or the other. Why does this concern me? I have a pair of analog audio cables running from the player straight to the TV, which will allow me to watch DVD without the surround sound system on. I usually do this late at night when I do not want to wake everyone up or when I am lazy. I run the AC-3 cable straight to the surround processor. (I do this most of the time)
*** Important Note *** AC-3 on DVD is in the digital domain, so it does not require a demodulator like LD. Do NOT use the RF input on your receiver or processor. Use the digital one.

16:9 and 4:3 selection - This is only available when the player is stopped. You must use the setup button and select either 16:9 (Anamorphic) or 4:3 (Pan & Scan or Letterbox). I would like to be able to select between the 'Anamorphic' and 'Letterbox' modes while watching the movie. I have already seen several posts on Usenet groups saying that their movie is Pan & Scan on both sides. The problem is that they did not choose the proper TV type in setup.

DVD Features

DVD is loaded with some great new features. The 'Menu' system was rarely ever talked about when DVD was being hyped, and this is a really HOT item. All the current DVDs that I purchased include a fancy menu built in, and you access it through the menu button on the remote [
click here to see menu from "The Unforgiven"]. From here you can choose to start from a particular scene in the film. This is the index of the disc [click here to see index to "Twister"]. You can also look at some of the cast members' [click here to see Bugs Bunny] information such as their biographies. Subtitles and languages are also selected from the menu [click here to see "Batman"] or just use the buttons on the remote. Other things that can be found are Trailers. (((All screen-shot photos are copyright, respective movie studios.)))

The current stock of titles all vary in options. Most of the titles contain a Pan & Scan version on one side and a Letterbox/Anamorphic on the other. These discs have no logos on either side, but there is a small inscription on the innermost part of the disc, near the hole. On "GoldenEye", an MGM title, the film is on one side, but but it looks like it is actually using a dual layer. When the disc boots up, it asks if you want to watch Pan & Scan or Letterbox/Anamorphic, and it also asks if you want the AC-3 or Pro Logic soundtrack. And of course some discs are using both sides, for example, "A Time to Kill." I am happy to see that they did not cram most of this film on one side, and then only have a few minutes on the other. It was split up pretty evenly. Just like laserdisc, you must flip the disc halfway through the film.

I have not encountered any multi-angle discs yet, except for the "Chic" demo from Japan. With the Toshiba, you will find it easy to switch between multiple languages, subtitles, and angles all at the push of a button.

The Player and Remote

The remote is laid out pretty intuitively. There is a directional pad in the middle (resembles a Nintendo or Genesis control pad), and the buttons are easy to find [
click here to see photo]. I would like to see the inclusion of illuminated buttons, because you can still end up hitting the wrong buttons in the dark.

The front of the SD-3006 is very limited; only bare essentials are there. These buttons include: Power, Open/Close, Stop, Play, Pause, and Skip. If you want to access the menu, you must use the remote. Upon inserting the disc and closing the door, the movie automatically starts, and the subtitling feature is on.

*** VERY IMPORTANT *** be sure to choose what type of TV you have in the setup screen. There are only two choices, 4:3 and 16:9. If 16:9 is selected, the aspect ratio is altered. This is made for a 16:9 TV that has the ability to unsqueeze the picture. The purpose of doing this is to occupy as much of the TV screen as possible, so that the amount of dead area (black bars at the top and bottom) is minimized.

If a feature, such as Multi-Angle, is not present on the disc, and the Multi-Angle button on the remote is pressed, a little red hand appears on screen telling you that the disc doesn't have that option. Fast forward and reverse are available at either 2x or 8x the film speed (very handy with lousy movies). During Pause or Stepping, the freeze frames are stored in a RAM buffer, and sometimes pixelation can be seen. This only happens in the pause mode, and these artifacts are not apparent during the action of the movie.

Performance

How did the Toshiba and DVD look? OUTSTANDING! After watching the two Imax titles, I was a little worried about the quality of DVD, but after seeing 9 other movies, I can say that DVD ROCKS! In most cases, I think DVD outperforms laserdisc. I can see more detail in the picture, much better color saturation especially in the reds and blues, and deeper blacks.

The quality is more than I expected . . . a LOT more. However, the quality does depend on the pressing. After viewing the Imax titles, I am almost certain that they did not originate in the component domain. Due to cross color artifacts,they look like the master was in the composite format. I could see cross color on "Africa: the Serengeti" where it was noticeable on Zebras and Cheetahs.

One of the best looking titles is "Space Jam", although they did not provide us with the letterbox version (Get with it Warner!) The picture jumps out of the screen. Bugs and friends are vibrant! Most animations look good, but this is AWESOME! Another title that is breathtaking is "Eraser", and it is easily superior to the laser. Warner has done some good work on this. However, it must be kept in mind that direct comparisons between DVD and the laserdisc counterpart are not valid unless they come from the same master. A good example of what I mean by this is on "The Abyss". The first pressing does not even come close to the THX re-master. If the LD was a bad transfer and they re-mastered it for DVD, it is just not a fair comparison. Speaking of THX, "Twister" is a THX certified DVD. While it looks VERY good, I feel it is a little dark. I felt the same way about the LD version. During the waterfall scene on "The Fugitive", I could see detail in the cement that was not there on Laser.

I wish I could tell you how the AC-3 soundtrack was but my Meridian processor needs an EPROM update to lock onto the AC-3. It just arrived, but I have not had the time to install it before press date for this article John will be telling you how they sounded. I am stuck with the PCM channel for the next week or so.

Does DVD play CDs? It does, but not well! DVD is a new format, and it should be treated as just that. Manufacturers have made sure that they will play existing CDs, and I supose this is a marketing decision. However, I have played several of my CDs on the 3006, and they sound very flat and lifeless compared to my CD transport. My CLD-97 (LD player) does a better job with the CDs than the DVD player. The 3006 also does NOT play CD-Rs at all! DVD requires a different kind of laser than CD. I have been able to vastly improve the quality, I say again, vastly improve the quality with a de-jittering device (I am using the Meridian 518)

Conclusion

At this point, I am concluding that I am not done with this review. When I get Video Essentials I will see how it performs on test patterns and also if the controls work well for setup, as compared to LD. I will also evaluate the component video output connection and the AC-3.

Currently the retailers who are displaying DVDs are doing a terrible job. They need to get with the program. If they want this new format to survive, they are going to have to show it off properly! If you want to see what DVD can do, go to a specialty dealer, and avoid the mass market establishment.

While I think DVD is incredible, I do not see it killing LD this century. LD has a large following, and the special editions are what really make it shine. As a matter of fact, I purchased 3 more LDs today. DVD has a lot of work ahead if it wants to make a dent. I hope that it survives, because it has enormous potential.

Stacey Spears


{Notes from Editor (JEJ)}

I had the chance to test a Toshiba SD-2006, which is the same as the 3006 but without component video outputs (component video is Y'Cb'Cr' , or sometimes called Y, B-Y, and R-Y, while composite video is Y/C together, and S-Video is Y and C separated), the RCA jacks are not gold plated, the digital readout is LED, and there is only one set of analog audio output jacks. The player handled the DVDs flawlessly, although the unit in the store had some problem with the display locking up. Image quality is comparable to LD in sharpness, although DVD is probably a little sharper (I just couldn't see it easily). Color saturation is definitely better on DVD than LD. I could see some pixelation during action scenes with DVD, but only if I stood very close to the 35" monitor. On LD, I could see some horizontal line video noise that was not present with DVD. With most video sources, the choice of composite video (standard coax) or S-Video outputs depends on the quality of the comb filter in the source compared to the TV. If it is better in the source, then use S-Video. If the TV comb fiter is better, then use the compositve video output from the source. With DVD players, the video is already in component format, so no comb filter is needed. Therefore, the DVD player will perform better with the S-Video connection rather than the composite, regardless of the TV. The component video outputs of the 3006 should be used if you have a TV with component video inputs because the component video signal is superior to both composite video and S-Video (assuming that the component video signal originates that way and is not a conversion from some other type of signal).

Jumping from one chapter to the next on the Toshiba is very fast (0.5 sec). I did not like having the movie automatically start when the DVD was placed in the tray, nor did I like having to turn off the subtitling feature each time I turned on the player to watch a movie. The latter item can be changed by going to the setup menu and turning off the default subtitle. The setup menu is confusing, and it is easy to get a letterboxed movie mixed up with the 16:9 setting. The menu should probably just say "Normal", "Expand Vertically", "Unexpand Vertically", etc., and should be available when the movie is playing. The AC-3 sound was fabulous, as it is with laserdiscs. Eventually, there are supposed to be some DVDs with DTS sound, and I would assume the digital coax output for the sound will work with DTS as it does with AC-3. I am very pleased with DVD as it comes out of the starting gate. Even though the first players and some of the movies will undoubtedly have some problems, we have to remember that the first CD players and CDs were not very good. This format has tremendous potential. I would be comfortable with a complete switch to DVD now, and just keep my LD player for my LD collection. It is sooooooo much easier to handle the DVDs than it is for LDs [
click here to see DVD player next to LD player]. I hope the movie producers will contract special editions of DVDs with minimum compression (using both layers and both sides if they have to, and even taking up more than one disc if necessary). If the regular editions are $24.95, the SEs would probably be around $40 (a guess). Eventually, I see this format handling movies on High Definition TV (HDTV) without any problem. I think we are all ready when they are.

John E. Johnson, Jr.


Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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